7 Best Skills to Learn From Engineers to Win in Life  

The best skills to learn come from rational and creative thinking in engineering. Without these skills, we wouldn’t have the many luxuries we all enjoy today.

Maybe we’d still all ride horses and travel on sailboats as we did centuries ago. Not something you want to imagine.

That said, engineers have a unique set of skills that set them apart from most people. I hope so anyway. Engineers design the bridges we cross, planes we fly in, cars we drive, and the list goes on.

These skills have translated into things we could never have imagined only 300 years ago.

Now, what if you could use these same best skills to learn from engineering and apply them to your personal life?

  • How much more productive could you become?
  • Would your accomplishments double?
  • How much happier would you be?

I’m going to go over a list of the best skills to learn from engineering. As an engineer, doing what engineers do, I have a lot to share.

I’ll show you how to apply these best skills to learn in your everyday life. This way you can improve your life, just like I did.

1) Attention to Detail

In the Engineering World

Not all types of engineering, but some, can endanger the lives of the public. For example, when I size an underground 12,470 volt cable, I make sure I properly size it.

The cable must carry the rated current of the load it connects to. If I undersize the cable, then I could cause an explosion.

The explosion would damage equipment and even injure and kill people. Also, no redo buttons exist with these mistakes.

So, in engineering, you need to become detail-oriented. Every stage of a design requires your close attention.

Otherwise, the entire project becomes a large liability. Then lawyers get involved. Not something you ever want to happen.

Unlike a surgeon who hurts one person if things go wrong, in engineering you can hurt hundreds at once. With this thought in mind, your brain becomes very detailed oriented.

You never want to miss anything in your design work. You leave no stone unturned.

NASA launch success rate

NASA launch success rate 1

In 1999 NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter. Two different engineering teams used different units: metric units and U.S. units.

A simple mistake of using the units of pounds of force instead of newtons led to a disaster. No margin for error exists when even a single inch can lead to a disaster.

Once you learn this, mistakes rarely happen. You habitually learn to pay attention to every detail.

No different than when you check your rearview mirror every time you go reverse in your car.

In short, you need this trait to become a great engineer. A trait I view as very beneficial to everyone involved in an engineering project.

In the Real World

I’m not saying to become OCD. Rather become more observant. Give extra time to review something piece by piece. Then review all parts of it as a whole.

Think of a new bill you receive in the mail. Don’t simply open the bill and check how much you owe.

Rather, review the amount you owe and then look over each of the transactions. Then review the fine print in the bill.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught a mistake in a bill. A transaction I didn’t recognize.

Also, verifying when my 0% APR adjusts saved me a lot of money. Small details matter.

Mistakes happen all the time. People try to con you. So, if you don’t know the details then you’ll never know the full story to something.

Also, becoming detail-oriented will help you greatly in almost every job. Computers today do a lot of our high-level work. Computers do this work in almost every industry.

But, we can’t always rely on computers. For this reason, I always review the outputs from computers in anything I’m doing.

In my review, I pay close attention to details, to check if all parts of the output make sense.

2) Planning and Organizing

In the Engineering World

A lot goes into starting and completing an engineering project design. First, you must study the client’s scope of work.

Next, you find out the details of what exactly the client wants. Thereafter, you create a plan of attack to complete the design.

You include all parties involved in the project in the plan. This includes civil, structural, electrical, and other engineering disciplines.

Depending on the project, certain groups will need to begin their work first. In building a bridge, environmental engineers start first.

They’ll inspect the area to review the impact of a newly added bridge. Then, the geotechnical engineers will analyze the area’s soil.

The soil analysis then helps with the bridge foundation design. Next, structural engineers design the bridge foundation. Then so on and so forth.

In the end, I would come in as an electrical engineer to complete various designs. This includes design for lights, a generator, and any other circuitry.

So, everyone needs to follow certain steps in a project. Also, every group involved in a project receives a schedule for their tasked work.

Without following certain steps in order, projects become delayed. Also, projects would not remain in budget and the design quality would suffer.

In the Real World

Plan your day. Create a to-do list for yourself for what you need to get done the next day.

Daily to do list template - most profitable skills to learn

I always create my daily to-do list the day before on my phone. As things come to mind, I add to my list.

I also have a monthly and yearly to-do list as well. This gives me something to shoot for in the long term.

Having a clear plan of action helps me stay focused. For example, if I’m looking to make a new investment by the end of 2020 I’ll need to plan ahead.

I need to save a certain amount of money. Also, I need to network to find a deal. So, my monthly goals include activities I need to complete to reach year-end goals.

My to-do list does not remain limited to business goals either. I have fitness, family, and spiritual goals as well.

I find to-do lists as one of the best skills to learn. It’ll give your life structure and keep you on a path to reach all your goals.

3) Never Be Content and Keep a Healthy Level of Paranoia in Your Life

In the Engineering World

When I design a very large scoped and high budget project, I become extra paranoid. I triple check my calculations and design work. I don’t want to make any mistakes.

Large projects have greater liability and complexity. As a result, you’ll have more eyes on your work too. Many different groups will review your work.

That said, in my designs, I want to always submit something that’ll work in the real world. A design that remains in budget yet does what it needs to. Also, an easy to construct design I find very important.

In this process, I review all the details of a project. I check to see if I’ve come up with the best design approach.

Also, I review my work against the work of other engineers in the project. This allows me to check if my design conflicts with the work of others.

I do this check many times at various stages in the project design. This becomes especially important when I’m juggling many projects at once.

When your mind wanders in different directions, mistakes can happen.

I find this level of paranoia as healthy in engineering. It keeps you on your toes and helps you deliver a quality product every time.

In the real world

With today’s fast-paced life, you need a good level of paranoia. It’ll help you slow life down to make better decisions.

You won’t always catch everything on the first review. Also, not everything appears as it seems.

I once bought a short sale home that had mold behind the sheetrock in the master bedroom. Before closing on the home, I brought an inspector into the home.

He didn’t spot the mold. His inspection didn’t sit well with me for whatever reason.

So, I then brought my handyman friend over the day after due to my paranoia. Together we both inspected the problem area. Due to suspicions, we found mold behind the sheetrock.

Even with the mold, the home still became a great investment. But, if I hadn’t found the mold this investment could have turned into a nightmare.

My investment would not have included the mold removal cost. As a result, I would have a huge bill with the discounted home purchase price not working in my favor.

Further to help you, I’ve listed some instances where you can use paranoia:

  • Contractor inspection: don’t blindly accept a contractor’s word. Go inspect the completed work yourself. Check if everything looks good.
  • Cash exchange: when someone gives you cash or change at a grocery store, count the money. Don’t take their word.
  • Sent emails: if someone or business tells you they never received your email, don’t take their word. Check your email outbox yourself to verify.
  • Financing something: Crunch the numbers yourself. Review the calculations. Check if the numbers make sense.
  • Safety issues: did the barbeque gas tank fall, from up high, damage the tank? Possibly. So, don’t risk using it. Instead, use a new gas tank to avoid an explosion.

In short, paranoia will indirectly make you more confident too. You’ll prevent others from taking advantage of you.

4) Constant Questioning

In the Engineering World

I’m a very curious person. I want to know why and how something works. When I run studies using engineering software, I never blindly accept the output results.

For example, I do cable ampacity studies for projects that use high voltage cables. I want to see how much current a 230,000 volt cable can carry in various scenarios.

A cable chart exists that shows you how much current each cable size can carry. However, many other variables exist too that the chart can’t tell you.

Underground bore with high voltage cables inside - constant questioning is a best skills to learn

For example, these unknown variables involve answering certain questions:

  • Is the cable near other cables?
  • What conduit type is the cable inside?
  • What’s the soil type and temperature surrounding the cable?
  • How much load does the cable need to carry?

Then so on and so forth. Each of these questions affects how hot the cable will get. The hotter the cable gets the less current the cable can carry.

When I receive the study output results, I check to see if the results make sense. For instance, I review the case of the cable inside a PVC conduit versus a metallic conduit.

Does the software show the cable’s current increases in the metallic conduit versus the PVC conduit? If no, then I have a problem.

Metal makes a great conductor. So, a metallic conduit will transfer heat out better than a PVC conduit.

PVC makes a bad conductor as a lightweight plastic.

So, what if I know all other variables remain constant in this example? Then I know the software made a mistake. Or, I made a wrong input into the software.

I know this because metal conduits always allow cables to carry more current than PVC conduits.

In the real world

Imagine your landscaper tells you it’ll cost $5,000 to add turf to your backyard. Something seems off to you though about his quote.

So, don’t blindly accept his quote. Ask questions and get answers. Start with these questions:

1) What’s the cost of the turf you’ll be using?

2) What’s the square footage of the area you’ll be adding turf to?

3) Are you charging to grade the existing dirt?

4) How much are you charging for disposing of waste materials?

5) Is the $5,000 quote a fixed cost?

These questions will help you know if you have a legitimate quote on your hands.

Now, another great example comes with doctor visits. Never blindly accept a doctor’s diagnosis if you don’t 100% agree. Ask questions. Like in any profession, doctors don’t know everything.

As a former bodybuilder, I have a pretty good understanding of human physiology. I enjoy discussing health subjects with my doctors.

I’ve noticed in America today, patients in most instances don’t get ideal care. A byproduct of the medical industry mixed with today’s insurance system. Most doctors give general advice and rush patient visits.

Also, doctors don’t address the root problem of illnesses most of the time. Rather, they patch problems with pills.

This then becomes a larger issue that we don’t have the time to discuss. Regardless, don’t blindly take a doctor’s word if you have concerns.

Do your research at home. Then enter the doctor’s office with your questions. Ask the doctor “Why?” when they give you a response.

If you feel the Doctor can’t answer your questions, then find a new doctor. Get two or three opinions.

This makes constant questioning one of the best skills to learn. You’ll keep more money in your pocket and you’ll stay healthier.

5) Relentless and Not Quitting

In the Engineering World

Engineers are stubborn. We always think a solution exists for a problem. When the client says “Jump,” we ask “How high?”

If the problem remains inside the laws of physics, then we always search for a solution. I’ve designed projects with many limitations.

Limitations sourced from physical space all the way to budget. But I still found a solution after a lot of head-scratching and pounding.

All in all, most problems have a solution. The trick becomes to not quit too soon. You need to look at problems from all angles with a lens of creativity.

To illustrate, think of how a metallic tube holding 200 plus people flies over oceans. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had quit the first time they had crashed a plane.

We’d still travel by ship in month-long journies from Europe to New York. Ironically today, we complain about one-hour flight delays.

Plane flying over ocean

In the Real World

The best things in life take effort. Most of the time we stand close to the finish line when we quit.

Imagine if you knew your goal sat behind one last push. Would you still have quit?

Let’s go over some examples of when you may quit too early:

1) You quit college when you had 1 quarter left before graduation.

2) You quit your diet 2 weeks before it became a habit.

3) You quit applying to better jobs after the tenth rejection.

4) You quit on your marriage after 6 months without discussing your problems together.

Many more examples exist.

In short, most every worthwhile thing we do requires effort. You simply need to stick with it.

Quit too soon and you won’t get the reward. A lot of heartaches in life come from quitting too early.

Always remember that a solution exists for almost everything in life. If you see someone else doing it, then you can do it too.

Look at others who did something who once were in your shoes. Find out how they did it.

Half the battle defaults to pushing through the difficult times. Also, only worthwhile things have difficulties attached to them.

For this reason, this makes not quitting one of the best skills to learn for both jobs and relationships. Both include many hardships.

To see better times, you need to push through the hardships.

6) Rational Thinking and Not Emotionally Driven

In the Engineering World

Engineers think differently than most people. Also, engineers stand on the shoulders of math and science subjects.

The rules of engineering rely on logic. So, if the calculations show a cable can carry 200 amps, then you have your final answer.

No voodoo magic exists that can increase the amps this cable can carry. If you increase the amps, the cable will overheat and possibly cause a fire.

As a result, engineers think very rationally. They seldom allow their emotions to dictate their decisions.

Allowing emotions into your design doesn’t help. Sure, you need to put certain emotions into a smartphone design.

The shape and feel of phones will subconsciously lead buyers to buy. A partial psychologically driven decision. But, in designing hydroelectric facilities emotions will not help you.

Again, certain emotions can help in some instances. Paranoia will make you more cautious and help you deliver a quality design. But, I won’t allow my excitement or frustrations to overtake good design practice

If the calculations don’t work, I won’t proceed with the work no matter how cool a solution may sound. The client can even offer me $10,000,000 to complete the janky design.

But, no matter my excitement, I can’t force a square peg into a round hole. Also, I won’t allow money to lead me to make a bad design decision.

So, emotions have their place, but they should never overtake rational thinking. A rational and clear mind allows us to safely fly from New York to France.

I’m 100% certain you don’t want a team of recently divorced and distressed people designing your next plane. This will more than likely lead to a disaster.

In short, you should add rational thinking to your toolset to have success in the future. You’ll speak the language of computers.

Decision to use emotions versus logic - most profitable skills to learn

In the real world

Many examples exist where you need to use rational thinking in the real world. In fact, irrational thinking causes most problems we face today.

For the best outcome in decisions, you want to use a healthy level of rational thinking.

We’ll go over several examples where you need to think rationally:

1) Buying a home: you either can afford the home or you can’t. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the home looks. The mortgage payments will not decrease because you found your dream home.

2) Eating healthy after a heart attack: it doesn’t matter how delicious food looks. If your doctor says to avoid certain foods, then you need to avoid them. Your heart doesn’t care how tasty a Twinkie looks over broccoli.

3) Abusive relationship: if someone abuses you in a relationship, you need to leave the relationship. It doesn’t matter how much you think they love you. You don’t hurt the people you love.

But, cases do exist where you use both rational thinking and emotions. For example, helping your parents when they need money.

Sure, helping them will lower your bank balance. But in return, you help the people who gave you life and raised you.

So, you review your finances. If you can help them without hurting financially yourself, then you help. Here you’ve perfectly combined rational thinking with emotions.

7) Creativity

In the Engineering World

I’ve shown how rational thinking rules in engineering. You need rational thinking to make something work in the real world.

For example, to fly a plane, make a computer compute, develop insulin, and so on.

To that end, a place also exists for creativity. You need an imaginative mind to think of solutions.

Not everything will come black and white to you. Thinking outside of the box helps.

But, a creative mind turns you into a swiss army knife. Your mind produces endless unique solutions.

You consume and process information from everything you see. Then you blend this information with your experiences and knowledge.

This allows engineers to come up with new concepts never thought of before. Imagine the first plane.

Birds inspired the wings on planes. So, taking inspiration from the animal kingdom. Then, applying this inspiration to human’s goal to fly.

Finally, by knowing when to switch on and off your creativity, you start thinking like a superstar engineer. You combine the power of rational thinking with creativity.

In the real world

Think of your favorite recipe that you want to make for a party. You may not have all the ingredients at hand to prepare the meal.

But, a creative mind will improvise. You’ll put together a meal through past inspirations you’ve seen and read about.

You mix and mash various things you find in your fridge. In the end, no one can tell the difference.

So, you do things on the fly. You figure out solutions no matter the difficulties.

The Best Skills to Learn That Will Transform Your Life

Some of these best skills to learn you may already have. You may already use these skills without a second thought today. But, you can always do better.

Try using these skills in different areas of your life and more often. Find out how you can best tailor these skills for your everyday life.

Write down these best skills to learn and look over them every day. Or even place these skills in your daily to-do list notes.

If you don’t use some of these skills, then slowly start using them. Make a list of the best skills to learn and pin them to your bedroom wall.

In the short term, you may need to force yourself to learn these skills. Over time they’ll become a habit.

Once they become a habit, you’ll always have the most powerful tools at your side. Soon you’ll think like an engineer and increase your productivity and better your life.

Which of these 7 best skills to learn do you think would most benefit your life? What do you think are the best skills to learn to lead a better life? 

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